She arrived bearing gifts.
That’s the first thing I’ll say about Jeanie Buss’ visit to my sports journalism class at Chapman University earlier today—the owner of the Los Angeles Lakers brought a bag for every student. But it didn’t stop there. She came with tickets to upcoming games. And while the jerks will say, “Big deal, the Lakers are out of playoff contention,” well, bite me. It was a big deal. A huge deal. Eight tickets, good seats, plus parking passes. They were distributed via writing contests, and my students were psyched. As they should have been.
I’ve now known Jeanie for seven or eight years, dating back to “Showtime,” and she’s my all-time favorite pro sports executive. And it’s not because I’m a huge Lakers fan (I actually never was) or because I wrote a book about the team’s 1980s heyday or because she’s cool and accessible. Nope, the reason Jeanie is my all-time favorite pro sports executive is because she’s real. She won’t tell you everything, but she wears everything on her sleeve. The highs. The lows. The losing eats at her. The winning drives her. You can see it as she stands before you. It’s not phony. It’s authentic.
Also, she gives a shit. Jeanie first came to my class a few years ago. I asked sorta on a lark. I mean, why would the Lakers owner speak to my class at a small university 45 miles to the south. But she arrived, sans entourage, and spent an hour answering every question, listening to every ramble. This time, I figured odds were longer. She’d come before. Surely that would be that. Plus, my class is small. Eleven students.
But there she was, sitting, chatting, answering. It’s been a rough year for the Lakers. She easily could have turned this down.
But she arrived. Bearing gifts.